Part 5 out of 14
short-sighted gardeners in France. You alluded just now to the
ingratitude of republics, and you apprehended lest I might likewise
suffer thereby. Let me assure you, however, that even my country's
ingratitude would be dearer to me than the gratitude of a foreign
power, and that the crown of thorns, which France may press upon my
head, would seem to me more honorable than the coronet with which an
enemy of France might adorn my brow. And now, count, a truce to such
trifling matters! Let us speak about business affairs. We have
signed the ratifications of peace, which are to be laid before the
congress; it only remains for us to sign the secret articles which
shall be known by none but France and Austria. The main point is the
evacuation of Mentz by your troops, so that our army may ocupy the
"I am afraid, general, this very point will be a stumbling-block for
the members of the congress. They will raise a terrible hue and cry
as soon as they learn that we have surrendered Mentz."
"Let these gentlemen say what they please," said Bonaparte,
contemptuously; "we have called them hither that they may talk, and
while they are talking, we shall act!"
"They will say that Austria has sacrificed the welfare and greatness
of Germany to her own private interests," exclaimed Count Cobenzl,
"Fools are they who care for what people will say!" replied
Bonaparte, shrugging his shoulders. "A prudent man will pursue his
path directly toward his aim, and the hum of babblers never disturbs
him. Hear, then, my last words: in case the Austrian troops do not
leave Mentz within one week, and surrender the fortress to the
French forces, the French army will remain in Venice, and I would
sooner send the latter city to the bottom of the sea than to let
Austria have a single stone of hers. Mentz must be ours, or I tear
the treaty, and hostilities will recommence!"
And Bonaparte, with a furious gesture, seized the papers lying on
the table and was about to tear them, when Count Cobenzl suddenly
jumped up and grasped his hands.
"General," he said, imploringly, "what are you going to do?"
"What am I going to do?" exclaimed Bonaparte, in a thundering voice,
"I am going to tear a treaty of peace, which you merely wanted to
sign with words, but not with deeds! Oh, that was the nice little
trick of your diplomacy, then! With your prince's coronet you wanted
to dazzle my eyes--with the two hundred thousand subjects you
offered me just now, you wanted me to corrupt my soul, and induce me
to barter away the honor and greatness of France for the miserable
people of a petty German prince! No, sir. I shall not sell my honor
at so low a price. I stand here in the name of the French Republic
and ask you, the representative of Austria, to fulfil what we have
agreed upon at Campo Formic. Mentz must be ours even before our
troops leave Venice. If you refuse that, it is a plain infringement
of the treaty, and hostilities will be resumed. Now, sir, come to a
decision. I am only a soldier, and but a poor diplomatist, for with
my sword and with my word I always directly strike at my aim. In
short, then, count, will you withdraw your troops from Mentz and
from the other fortresses on the Rhine, and surrender Mentz to our
army? Yes, or no?"
"Yes, yes," exclaimed Count Cobenzl, with a sigh, "we will fulfil
your wishes--we will withdraw our troops from Mentz and surrender
the fortress to the French."
"When will the surrender take place? As speedily as possible, if you
"On the ninth of December, general."
"Very well, on the ninth of December. The matter is settled, then."
"But let there be no solemn ceremonies at the surrender," said the
count, imploringly. "Let our troops withdraw quietly--let your
forces occupy the place in the same manner, so that when the
delegates of the German empire, assembled in congress in this city,
and to whom the Emperor of Germany has solemnly guaranteed the
entire integrity and inviolability of the empire, hear the news of
the transaction, the latter may be already an accomplished fact, to
which every one must submit."
"Be it so, if that be Austria's desire," said Bonaparte, smiling.
"And now we will consider the other secret articles. The Austrian
troops retire from the German empire up to the line of the Inn and
Lech, occupying hereafter only Austrian territory."
"Yes, general; in return for all these concessions on our part, the
French troops will evacuate on the thirtieth of December the
fortresses and territory of Venice, which has been ceded to Austria
by the treaty of Campo Formio, and retire behind the line of
"Granted! At the same time the troops of the republic seize the
tete-de-pont at Mannheim either by intimidating the isolated
garrison, or by making a sudden dash at the position, [Footnote:
"Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat." The French took the tete-de-pont at
Mannheim by assault, on the 15th of January, 1798, the garrison
refusing to evacuate it. Mentz surrendered without firing a gun, and
during the night of the 28th of December 1797, the French entered
this great fortress, which was thereupon annexed to the French
Republic] and during the continuation of the negotiations here at
Rastadt, the French forces leave the left bank of the Rhine and
occupy the right bank from Basle to Mentz."
"Granted," sighed Count Cobenzl. "Austria yields the frontier of the
Rhine to France--that is, by the simultaneous retreat of her own
forces she surrenders to the republic the most important points of
the German empire, including Ehrenbreitstein. The congress of the
states of the German empire will deliberate, therefore, under the
direct influence produced by the immediate neighborhood of a French
"In case the delegates of Germany do not like the looks of the
French soldiers, they may turn their eyes to the other side, where
the Austrian army is encamped on the Danube and on the Lech,"
exclaimed Bonaparte. "Thus the delegates will be surrounded by two
armies. This fact may interfere a little with the freedom of speech
during the session of congress, but it will be advantageous, too,
inasmuch as it will induce the delegates to accelerate their labors
somewhat, and to finish their task sooner than they would have done
under different circumstances."
"It is true, right in the face of these two armies at least the
small German princes will not dare to oppose the German emperor in
ceding the entire left bank of the Rhine to France. But it is only
just and equitable for us to indemnify them for their losses. In one
of our secret articles, therefore, we should acknowledge the
obligation of promising compensations to the princes and electors--"
"Yes, let us promise compensations to them," said Bonaparte, with a
tinge of sarcasm. "As to the possessions of Prussia on the left bank
of the Rhine, France declares her readiness to give them back to the
King of Prussia."
"But both powers agree not to allow the King of Prussia to acquire
any new territory," exclaimed Count Cobenzl, hastily.
"Yes, that was our agreement at Campo Formio," said Bonaparte.
"Austria's increase of territory, besides Venice, will consist of
Salzburg and a piece of Upper Bavaria. In case she should make
further conquests in the adjoining states, France may claim a
further aggrandizement on the right bank of the Rhine." [Footnote:
Schlosser's "History of the Eighteenth Century," vol. v., p. 43.]
"Yes, that was the last secret article of the preliminaries of Campo
Formio," said Cobenzl, sighing.
"Then we have remained entirely faithful to our agreement," said
Bonaparte. "We have not made any alterations whatever in the
programme which we agreed upon and deposed in writing at the castle
of Campo Formio. It only remains for us to-day to sign these secret
He took the pen and hastily signed the two documents spread out on
Count Cobenzl signed them also; but his hand was trembling a little
while he was writing, and his face was clouded and gloomy. Perhaps
he could not help feeling that Austria just now was signing the
misery and disgrace of Germany in order to purchase thereby some
provinces, and that Austria enlarged her territory at the expense of
the empire whose emperor was her own ruler--Francis II. Their
business being finished, the two plenipotentiaries rose, and Count
Cobenzl withdrew. Bonaparte accompanied him again to the door of the
anteroom, and then returned to his cabinet.
A proud, triumphant smile was now playing on his pale, narrow lips,
and his eyes were beaming and flashing in an almost sinister manner.
Stepping back to the table, he fixed his eyes upon the document with
the two signatures.
"The left bank of the Rhine is ours!" he said, heavily laying his
hand upon the paper. "But the right bank?"
He shook his head, and folding his arms upon his back, he commenced
pacing the room, absorbed in profound reflections. His features had
now resumed their marble tranquillity; it was again the apparation
of Julius Caesar that was walking up and down there with inaudible
steps, and the old thoughts of Julius Caesar, those thoughts for
which he had to suffer death, seemed to revive again in Bonaparte's
mind, for at one time he whispered, "A crown for me! A crown in
Germany. It would be too small for me! If my hand is to grasp a
crown, it must--"
He paused and gazed fixedly at the wall as if he saw the future
there, that arose before him in a strange phantasmagoria.
After a long pause, he started and seemed to awake from a dream.
"I believe I will read the letter once more, which I received
yesterday by mail," he murmured, in an almost inaudible tone. "It is
a wonderful letter, and I really would like to know who wrote it."
He drew a folded paper from his bosom and opened it. Stepping into a
bay window, he perused the letter with slow, deliberate glances. The
bright daylight illuminated his profile and rendered its antique
beauty even more conspicuous. Profound silence surrounded him, and
nothing was heard hut his soft and slow respiration and the rustling
of the paper.
When he had finished it, he commenced perusing it again, but this
time he seemed to be anxious to hear what he was reading. He read
it, however, in a very low and subdued voice, and amidst the silence
surrounding him the words that fell from the lips of the resurrected
Caesar sounded like the weird whispers of spirits.
"You have to choose now between so great an alternative," he read,
"that however bold your character may be, you must be uncertain as
to the determination you have to come to, if you are to choose
between respect and hatred, between glory or disgrace, between
exalted power or an abject insignificance, that would lead you to
the scaffold, and, finally, between the immortality of a great man,
or that of a punished partisan."
"Ah!" exclaimed Bonaparte, and his voice was now loud and firm. "Ah!
I shall never hesitate between such alternatives. I should bear
disgrace, abject insignificance, and an utter lack of power? And my
hand should not be withered--it should be able yet to grasp a sword
and pierce my breast with it?"
He lowered his eyes again and continued reading: "You have to choose
between three parts: the first is to return quietly to France and to
live there as a plain and unassuming citizen; the second, to return
to France at the head of an army and there to become the leader of a
party; the third, to establish a great empire in Italy and proclaim
yourself king of the peninsula. I advise you to do so, and to grasp
the Italian crown with a firm hand." [Footnote: Sabatier de Castres,
living at that time in exile at Hamburg, had written this anonymous
letter to Bonaparte.]
"He is a fool," said Bonaparte, "who believes a man might make
himself king of Italy and maintain himself on the throne, unless he
previously has seized the sovereign power in France, [Footnote:
"Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. v., p. 69.] But no one must hear
these thoughts! I will go to Josephine!"
He hastily folded the paper and concealed it again in his bosom.
Then stepping to the looking-glass, he closely scanned his face in
order to see whether or not it might betray his thoughts; and when
he had found it to be as pale and impassive as ever, he turned round
and left the room.
THE BANNER OF GLORY.
Four days had elapsed since Bonaparte's arrival at Rastadt, and the
congress had profited by them in order to give the most brilliant
festivals to the French general and his beautiful wife. All those
ambassadors, counts, barons, bishops, and diplomatists seemed to
have assembled at Rastadt for the sole purpose of giving banquets,
tea-parties, and balls; no one thought of attending to business, and
all more serious ideas seemed to have been utterly banished, while
every one spoke of the gorgeous decorations of the ball-rooms and of
the magnificence of the state dinners, where the most enthusiastic
toasts were drunk in honor of the victorious French general; and the
people seemed most anxious entirely to forget poor, suffering, and
Josephine participated in these festivities with her innate
cheerfulness and vivacity. She was the queen of every party; every
one was doing homage to her; every one was bent upon flattering her
in order to catch an affable word, a pleasant glance from her; and,
encouraged by her unvaried kindness, to solicit her intercession
with her husband, in whose hands alone the destinies of the German
princes and their states now seemed to lie.
But while Josephine's radiant smiles were delighting every one--
while she was promising to all to intercede for them with her
husband, Bonaparte's countenance remained grave and moody, and it
was only in a surly mood that he attended the festivals that were
given in his honor. His threatening glances had frequently already
been fixed upon his wife, and those moody apprehensions, ever alive
in his jealous breast, had whispered to him: "Josephine has deceived
you again! In order to silence your reproaches, she invented a
beautiful story, in which there is not a word of truth, for the
letter that was to call you back to Paris does not arrive, and the
Directory keeps you here at Rastadt."
And while he was indulging in such reflections, his features assumed
a sinister expression, and his lips muttered: "Woe to Josephine, if
she should have deceived me!"
Thus the fourth day had arrived, and the Bavarian ambassador was to
give a brilliant soiree. Bonaparte had promised to be present, but
he had said to Josephine, in a threatening manner, that he would
attend only if the expected courier from Paris did arrive in the
course of the day, so that he might profit by the Bavarian
ambassador's party to take leave of all those "fawning and slavish
representatives of the German empire."
But no courier had made his appearance during the whole morning.
Bonaparte had retired to his closet and was pacing the room like an
angry lion in his cage. All at once, however, the door was hastily
opened, and Josephine entered with a radiant face, holding in her
uplifted right hand a large sealed letter.
"Bonaparte!" she shouted, in a jubilant voice, "can you guess what I
have got here?"
He ran toward her and wanted to seize the letter. But Josephine
would not let him have it, and concealed it behind her back. "Stop,
my dear sir," she said. "First you must beg my pardon for the evil
thoughts I have read on your forehead during the last few days. Oh,
my excellent general, you are a poor sinner, and I really do not
know if I am at liberty to grant you absolution and to open the
gates of paradise to you."
"But what have I done, Josephine?" he asked. "Was I not as patient
as a lamb? Did I not allow myself to be led like a dancing-bear from
festival to festival? Did I not look on with the patience of an
angel while every one was making love to you, and while you were
lavishing smiles and encouraging, kind glances in all directions?"
"What have you done, Bonaparte?" she retorted gravely. "You inwardly
calumniated your Josephine. You accused her in your heart, and day
and night the following words were written on your forehead in
flaming characters: 'Josephine has deceived me.' Do you pretend to
deny it, sir?"
"No," said Bonaparte, "I will not deny any thing, dear, lovely
expounder of my heart! I confess my sins, and implore your
forgiveness. But now, Josephine, be kind enough not to let me wait
any longer. Let me have the letter!"
"Hush, sir! this letter is not directed to you, but to myself,"
replied Josephine, smiling.
Bonaparte angrily stamped his foot. "Not to me!" he exclaimed,
furiously. "Then is it not from the Directory--it does not call me
back from Rastadt?--"
"Hush, Bonaparte!" said Josephine, smiling, "must you always
effervesce like the stormy sea that roared around your cradle, you
big child? Be quiet now, and let me read the letter to you. Will you
let me do so?"
"Yes, I will," said Bonaparte, hastily. "Read, I implore you, read!"
Josephine made a profound, ceremonious obeisance, and withdrawing
her hand with the letter from her back, she unfolded several sheets
"Here is first a letter from my friend Botot," she said, "just
listen:--'Citoyenne Generale: The Directory wished to send off to-
day a courier with the enclosed dispatches to General Bonaparte. I
induced the gentlemen, however, to intrust that dispatch to myself,
and to permit me to send it to you instead of the general. It is to
yourself chiefly that the general is indebted for the contents of
this dispatch from the Directory. It is but just, therefore,
Citoyenne, that you should have the pleasure of handing it to him.
Do so, Citoyenne, and at the same time beg your husband not to
forget your and his friend.--Botot.' That is my letter Bonaparte,
and here, my friend, is the enclosure for yourself. You see, I am
devoid of the common weakness of woman, I am not inquisitive, for
the seal is not violated, as you may see yourself."
And with a charming smile she handed the letter to Bonaparte. But he
did not take it.
"Break the seal, my Josephine," he said, profoundly moved. "I want
to learn the contents of the letter from your lips. If it should
bring me evil tidings, they will sound less harshly when announced
by you; is it joyful news, however, your voice will accompany it
with the most beautiful music."
Josephine nodded to him with a tender and grateful glance, and
hastily broke the seal.
"Now pray, quick! quick!" said Bonaparte, trembling with impatience.
"The executive Directory presumes, citizen general, that you have
arrived at Rastadt. It is impatient to see and to weigh with you the
most important interests of the country. Hence it desires you to
bring the exchanged ratifications personally to Paris, and to inform
us what dispositions you have taken in regard to the occupation of
Mentz by our troops, in order that this event may take place without
further delay. It may be, however, that you have forwarded this
intelligence to us already by means of a courier or an aide-de-camp;
in that case it will be kept secret until your arrival. The journey
you are now going to make to Paris will first fulfil the sincere
desire of the Directory to manifest to you publicly its most
unbounded satisfaction with your conduct and to be the first
interpreter of the nation's gratitude toward you. Besides, it is
necessary for you to be fully informed of the government's views and
intentions, and to consider in connection with it the ultimate
consequences of the great operations which you will be invited to
undertake; so we expect you immediately, citizen general. The
executive Directory also desires you to indicate to the returning
courier, who is to deliver this dispatch to you, the precise day of
your arrival at Paris."
"In the name of the Directory:"
"We shall set out at once!" exclaimed Bonaparte, radiant with joy.
"In order to arrive together with the courier?" asked Josephine,
laughing, "and to lose all the triumphs which the grateful country
is preparing for you? No, my impatient friend, you will patiently
remain to-day by the side of your Josephine and we shall start only
to-morrow. Do you promise it?"
"Well, be it so!" he exclaimed, glowing with excitement, "we will
set out to-morrow for Paris. My task in Italy is accomplished; if it
please God, there will be new work for me at Paris."
"Your enemies will soon find means to drive you away from the
capital, if you should be incautious, and if they should fear lest
your presence might become dangerous to themselves. Nothing is more
dangerous to small, insignificant souls than a great man. Remember
that, my friend, and do not irritate them."
Bonaparte eagerly grasped her hand. "Believe me," he said, in a low
voice, "as soon as I have reached Paris, I shall know what line of
policy I must pursue hereafter. Two years shall not elapse ere the
whole ridiculous republican edifice will be overthrown." [Footnote:
"Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. v., p. 60.] "And then," exclaimed
Josephine, joyfully, "when you have accomplished that--when you
stand as a victorious general on the ruins of the republic--you will
reestablish the throne over them, I hope?"
"Yes, I will reestablish the throne," [Footnote: Bonaparte's own
words.--"Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. v., p. 70.] said
"And your arm will place upon this throne him to whom this throne is
due. Oh, my generous and noble friend, what a heavenly day it will
be when the King of France by your side makes his solemn entry into
Paris, for you will recall the legitimate king, Louis XVIII., from
Bonaparte stared at her in amazement. "Do you really believe that?"
he asked, with a peculiar smile.
"I have no doubt of it," she said, innocently. "Bonaparte can do
whatever he wishes to do. He has overthrown thrones in Italy, he can
reestablish the throne in France. I repeat, Bonaparte can do
whatever he wishes to do."
"And do you know, then, you little fool, do you know what I really
wish to do?" he asked. "I wish to be the great regulator of the
destinies of Europe, or the first citizen of the globe. I feel that
I have the strength to overthrow every thing and to found a new
world. The astonished universe shall bow to me and be compelled to
submit to my laws. Then I shall make the villains tremble, who
wished to keep me away from my country. [Footnote: Le Normand, vol.
1., p. 347.] I have made the beginning already, and this miserable
government has to call me back to Paris notwithstanding its own
secret hostility. Soon it shall be nothing but a tool in my hands,
and when I do not need this tool any longer, I shall destroy it.
This government of lawyers has oppressed France long enough. It is
high time for us to drive it away." [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme
d'Etat," vol. v., p. 70.]
"Hush, Bonaparte, for God's sake, hush!" said Josephine, anxiously.
"Let no one here suspect your plans, for we are surrounded in this
house by austere and rabid republicans, who, if they had heard your
words, would arraign you as a criminal before the Directory. Intrust
your plans to no one except myself, Bonaparte. Before the world
remain as yet a most enthusiastic republican, and only when the
decisive hour has come, throw off your tunic and exhibit your royal
Bonaparte smiled, and encircled her neck with his arms.
"Yes, you are right," he said; "we must be taciturn. We must bury
our most secret thoughts in the deepest recesses of our souls, and
intrust them to no one, not even to the beloved. But come,
Josephine, I owe you my thanks yet for the joyful tidings you have
brought me. You must permit me to make you a few little presents in
"Give me your confidence, and I am abundantly rewarded," said
"Henceforth I shall never, never distrust you," he replied,
affectionately. "We belong to each other, and no power of earth or
heaven is able to separate us. You are mine and I am thine; and what
is mine being thine, you must permit me to give you a trinket sent
to me to-day by the city of Milan."
"A trinket?" exclaimed Josephine, with radiant eyes; "let me see it.
Is it a beautiful one?"
Bonaparte smiled. "Yes, beautiful in the eyes of those to whom glory
seems more precious than diamonds and pearls," he said, stepping to
the table from which he took a small morocco casket. "See," he said,
opening it, "it is a gold medal which the city of Milan has caused
to be struck in my honor, and on which it confers upon me the title
of 'The Italian.'"
"Give it to me," exclaimed Josephine, joyfully--"give it to me, my
'Italian!' Let me wear this precious trinket which public favor has
bestowed upon you."
"Public favor," he said, musingly--"public favor, it is light as
zephyr, as fickle as the seasons, it passes away like the latter,
and when the north wind moves it, it will disappear." [Footnote: Le
Normand, vol. i., p. 261.]
He was silent, but proceeded after a short pause in a less excited
"As to my deeds," he said, "the pen of history will trace them for
our grandchildren. Either I shall have lived for a century, or I
shall earn for all my great exploits nothing but silence and
oblivion. Who is able to calculate the whims and predilections of
history?" [Footnote: Ibid., vol. i, p. 262.]
He paused again, and became absorbed in his reflections.
Josephine did not venture to arouse him from his musing. She fixed
her eyes upon the large gold medal, and tried to decipher the
Bonaparte suddenly raised his head again, and turned his gloomy eyes
toward Josephine. "I suppose you know," he said, "that I have always
greatly distinguished the Duke of Litalba among all Milanese, and
that I have openly courted his friendship?"
"You have always manifested the greatest kindness for him," said
Josephine, "and he is gratefully devoted to you for what you have
done for him."
"Gratefully!" exclaimed Bonaparte, sarcastically. "There is no
gratitude on earth, and the Duke of Litalba is as ungrateful as the
rest of mankind. I called him my friend. Do you know how he has paid
me for it, and what he has said of me behind my back?"
"Oh, then, they have told you libels and made you angry again by
repeating to you the gossip of idle tongues?"
"They shall tell me every thing--I want to know every thing!"
retorted Bonaparte, violently. "I must know my friends and my
enemies. And I believed Litalba to be my friend, I believed him when
he told me, with tears in his eyes, how much he was afflicted by my
departure, and how devotedly he loved me. I believed him, and on the
same day he said at a public casino, 'Now at last our city will get
rid of this meteor that is able all alone to set fire to the whole
of Europe, and to spread the sparks of its revolutionary fire to the
most remote corners of the world.' [Footnote: Ibid., vol. I., p.
362.] He dared to call me a meteor, a shining nothing which after
lighting up the sky for a short while explodes and dissolves itself
into vapor. I shall prove to him and to the whole world that I am
more than that, and if I kindle a fire in Europe, it shall be large
enough to burn every enemy of mine."
"Your glory is the fire that will consume your enemies," said
Josephine, eagerly. "You will not reply to their calumnies--your
deeds will speak for themselves. Do not heed the voice of slander,
my Italian, listen only to the voice of your glory. It will march
before you to France like a herald, it will fill all hearts with
enthusiasm, and all hearts will hail your arrival with rapturous
applause--you, the victorious chieftain, the conqueror of Italy!"
"I will show you the herald I am going to send to-day to France, to
be presented there in my name by General Joubert to the Directory,"
replied Bonaparte. "It is a herald whose mute language will be even
more eloquent than all the hymns of victory with which they may
receive me. Wait here for a moment. I shall be back directly."
He waved his hand to her and hastily left the room. Josephine's eyes
followed him with an expression of tender admiration. "What a bold
mind, what a fiery heart!" she said, in a low voice. "Who will stem
the bold flight of this mind, who will extinguish the flames of this
The door opened, and Bonaparte returned, followed by several footmen
carrying a rolled-up banner. When they had reached the middle of the
room, he took it from them and told them to withdraw. As soon as the
door had closed behind them, he rapidly unrolled the banner so that
it floated majestically over his head.
"Ah, that is the proud victor of the bridge of Arcole!" exclaimed
Josephine, enthusiastically. "Thus you must have looked when you
headed the column, rushing into the hail of balls and bullets, and
bearing the colors aloft in your right hand! Oh, Bonaparte, how
glorious you look under your glorious banner!"
"Do not look at me, but look at the banner," he said. "Future
generations may some day take it for a monument from the fabulous
times of antiquity, and yet this monument contains nothing but the
truth. The Directory shall hang up this banner in its hall, and if
it should try to deny or belittle my deeds, I shall point at the
banner which will tell every one what has been accomplished in Italy
by the French army and its general."
Josephine looked in silent admiration at the splendid banner. It was
made of the heaviest white satin, trimmed with a broad border of
blue and white. Large eagles, embroidered in gold, and decorated
with precious stones, filled the corners on both sides; warlike
emblems, executed by the most skilful painters, filled the inside of
the colored border, and inscriptions in large gold letters covered
"Read these inscriptions, Josephine," said Bonaparte imperiously,
pointing at them with his uplifted arm. "It is a simple and short
history of our campaign in Italy. Read aloud, Josephine; let me hear
from your lips the triumphal hymn of my army!"
Josephine seized the gold cord hanging down from the banner and thus
kept it straight. Bonaparte, proudly leaning against the gilt flag-
staff, which he grasped with both hands, listened smiling and with
flashing eyes to Josephine, who read as follows:
"One hundred and fifty thousand prisoners; one hundred and seventy
stands of colors; five hundred and fifty siege-guns; six hundred
field-pieces; five pontoon parks; nine line-of-battle ships, of
sixty-four guns; twelve frigates of thirty-two guns; twelve
corvettes; eighteen galleys; armistice with the King of Sardinia;
treaty with Genoa; armistice with the Duke of Parma; armistice with
the King of Naples; armistice with the Pope; preliminaries of
Leoben; treaty of Montebello with the Republic of Genoa; treaty of
peace with the emperor at Campo Formio."
"Liberty restored to the people of Bologna, Ferrara, Modena,
Massacarrara, of the Romagna, of Lombardy, Brescia, Bergamo, Mantua,
Cremona, Chiavenna, Bormio, and the Valtellino; further, to the
people of Genoa, to the vassals of the emperor, to the people of the
department of Corcyra, of the Aegean Sea and Ithaca."
"Sent to Paris all the masterpieces of Michel Angelo, Guercino,
Titian, Paul Veronese, Correggio, Albarro, the two Carracci,
Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci." [Footnote: This wonderful banner
was hung up in the hall of the Directory while the members of the
latter were occupying the Luxemburg. It afterward accompanied the
three consuls to the Tuileries, and was preserved there in the large
reception-room. It is now in the "Dome des Invalides" in the chapel
containing the emperor's sarcophagus.]
"Ah, my friend," exclaimed Josephine, enthusiastically, "that is a
leaf from history which the storms of centuries will never blow
Bonaparte slowly lowered the banner until it almost covered the
floor and then he muttered gloomily: "Men are like leaves in the
wind; the wind blows the leaves to the ground, [Footnote: Homer]
and--but no," he interrupted himself, "I shall write my name on
every rock and every mountain in Europe, and fasten it there with
iron-clasps in such a manner that no winds shall blow it away! Oh,
footmen! come in, roll up the banner again, and put it back into the
The footmen hastened to obey, and took the banner away. Bonaparte
turned again to his wife with a smile.
"I promised you a few presents," he said. "As yet I have given you
only the medals. The best gift I have kept back. Marmont sent me the
statue of the Holy Virgin which he removed from Loretto."
"Then you have not fulfilled my urgent prayers!" said Josephine,
reproachfully. "Even the property of the Church and of the Holy
Father at Rome have not been safe from the hands of the conquerors!"
"That is the law of war," said Bonaparte. "Woe to the places which
war touches on its bloody path! But you may reassure yourself,
Josephine. I have only taken from the Holy Father these superfluous
things which he may easily spare. I only took his plate, his
jewelry, and diamonds, thus reducing him to the simplicity of the
apostles; and I am sure the good old man will thank me for it. I
have, moreover, only striven to promote the welfare of his soul by
doing so, and the Roman martyrologist some day will add his name to
the list of saints. [Footnote: Le Normand, vol. i., p. 243.] The
jewels and the gold I sent to Paris, together with the statue of the
Madonna of Loretto, but I retained a few relics for you, Josephine.
See here the most precious one of them all!"
He handed her a small paper, carefully folded up. Josephine hastily
opened it and asked, in surprise--"A piece of black woollen cloth!
And that is a relic?"
"And a most precious one at that! It is Loretto's most priceless
treasure. It is a piece of the gown of the Virgin Mary, in which she
was mourning for the Saviour. [Footnote: Ibid., vol. i., p. 245.]
Preserve this relic carefully, dear Josephine, and may it protect
you from danger and grief!" Josephine folded up the piece of cloth,
and opening a large locket hanging on her neck on a heavy gold
chain, she laid the cloth into it, and then closed the locket again.
"That shall be the sanctuary of my relic," she said. "I shall keep
it till I die."
"Why do you speak of dying?" he exclaimed, almost indignantly. "What
have we to do with grim-death? We, to whom life has to fulfil and
offer so much! We shall return to Paris, and, if it please God, a
great future is awaiting us there!"
"If it please God, a happy future!" said Josephine, fervently. "Oh,
Bonaparte, how gladly I shall reenter our dear little house in the
Rue Chantereine, where we passed the first happy days of our love!"
"No, Josephine," he exclaimed, impetuously, "that little house will
not be a fitting abode for the conqueror of Italy, I am no longer
the poor general who had nothing but his sword. I return rich in
glory, and not poor as far as money is concerned. I might have
easily appropriated the spoils amounting to many millions; but I
disdained the money of spoliation and bribery, and what little money
I have got now, was acquired in an honest and chivalrous manner,
[Footnote: Bonaparte at St. Helena said to Las Casas that he had
brought only three hundred thousand francs from Italy. Bourrienne
asserts, however, Bonaparte had brought home no less than three
million francs. He adds, however, that this sum was not the fruit of
peculation and corruption, Bonaparte having been an incorruptible
administrator. But he had discovered the mines of Yorda, and he had
an interest in the meat contracts for the army. He wanted to be
independent, and knew better than any one else that he could not be
independent without money. He said to Bourrienne in regard to it, "I
am no Capuchin!"--Memoires de Bourrienne, vol 11., p. 47.] It is
sufficient, however, to secure a brilliant existence to us. I shall
not be satisfied until I live with you in a house corresponding with
the splendor of my name. I need a palace, and shall have it
decorated with all the stands of colors I have taken in Italy. To
you alone, Josephine, to you I intrust the care of designating to me
a palace worthy of being offered to me by the nation I have
immortalized, and worthy also of a wife whose beauty and grace could
only beautify it. [Footnote: Le Normand, vol. i., p. 265.] Come,
Josephine--come to Paris! Let us select such a palace!"
The prime minister, Baron Thugut, was in his study. It was yet early
in the morning, and the minister had just entered his room in order
to begin his political task. On the large green table at which
Thugut had just sat down, there lay the dispatches and letters
delivered by the couriers who had arrived during the night and early
in the morning. There were, besides, unfolded documents and decrees,
waiting for the minister's signature, in order to become valid laws.
But the minister took no notice whatever of these papers, but first
seized the newspapers and other periodicals, which he commenced
reading with great eagerness. While he was perusing them, his stern
features assumed a still harsher mien, and a gloomy cloud settled on
his brow. Suddenly he uttered a wild oath and violently hurling the
paper, in which he had been reading, to the floor, he jumped up from
"Such impudence is altogether intolerable!" he shouted, angrily. "It
is high time for me to teach these newspaper scribblers another
lesson, and they shall have it! I--"
Just then, the door of the anteroom opened, and a footman entered.
He informed his master that the police minister, Count Saurau,
wished to see him.
Baron Thugut ordered him to be admitted at once, and went to meet
him as soon as he heard him come in.
"You anticipate my wishes, my dear count," he said. "I was just
going to send for you."
"Your excellency knows that I am always ready to obey your calls,"
replied Count Saurau, politely. "I acknowledge your superiority and
submit to you as though you were my lord and master; notwithstanding
our position in society and in the state service, which is almost an
equal one, I willingly permit you to treat me as your disciple and
"And I believe that is the wisest course you can pursue, my dear
little count," said Thugut, laughing sarcastically. "It has been
good for you to do so, I should think, and so it has been for the
whole Austrian ship of state, that has been intrusted to my
guidance. Yes, sir, the son of the ship-builder Thunichtgut has
shown to you and your fellow-members of the ancient aristocracy that
talents and ability are no exclusive privileges of your class, and
that a common ship-builder's son may become prime minister, and that
a low-born Thunichtgut may be transformed into a Baron von Thugut.
The great Empress Maria Theresa has performed this miracle, and
baptized me, and I believe Austria never found fault with her for
doing so. The ship-builder's son has piloted the ship of state
tolerably skilfully through the breakers up to the present time, and
he shall do so in future too, in spite of all counts and
aristocrats. You see, I do not try to conceal my humble descent;
nay, I boast of it, and it is therefore quite unnecessary for you to
remind me of what I never want to forget!"
"I see that some late occurrence must have excited your excellency's
just anger," exclaimed Count Saurau.
"And being police minister, you doubtless know all about that
occurrence," said Thugut, sarcastically.
Count Saurau shrugged his shoulders. "I confess I am unable to
"Then you have not read the papers this morning?" asked Thugut,
scornfully. "You have no idea of the infamous attack which an
aristocratic newspaper scribbler has dared to make upon me, nay,
upon the emperor himself?"
"I confess that I do not understand what your excellency means,"
said Count Saurau, anxiously.
"Well, then, listen to me!" exclaimed Thugut, seizing the paper
again. "Listen to what I am going to read to you: 'At a time when
the whole Austrian people are longing for peace, when our august
Empress Theresia and our dearly beloved Archduke Charles share these
sentiments of the people and give expression to them at the feet of
the throne and in opposition to those who would deluge our cherished
Austria with the miseries and dangers of war--at such a time we
fondly look back into the great history of our country and remember
what has been accomplished by great and gifted members of our
imperial house in former periods for the welfare and tranquillity of
Austria; we remember, for instance, that Austria in 1619, like to-
day, was threatened by enemies and on the eve of a terrible war, not
because the honor and welfare of Austria rendered such a war
necessary, but because the ambitious and arrogant minister, Cardinal
Clesel, was obstinately opposed to peace, and utterly unmindful of
the wishes of the people. He alone, he, the all-powerful minister,
was in favor of war; he overwhelmed the weak Emperor Mathias with
his demands; and when the latter, owing to the anxiety he had to
undergo, was taken sick, he even pursued him with his clamor for war
into his sick-room. But then the archdukes, the emperor's brothers,
boldly determined to interfere. They arrested the rascally minister
at the emperor's bedside, and sent him to Castle Ambrass in the
Tyrol, where he suffered long imprisonment, a just punishment for
his arrogance and for his attempt to involve the country in a war so
distasteful to all classes of the people. About half a century later
a similar occurrence took place. There was again a minister
advocating war in spite of the whole Austrian people. It was in
1673. The minister to whose suggestions the Emperor Leopold lent a
willing ear at that time, was Prince Lobkowitz. But the Empress
Claudia had compassion on the people, groaning under the heavy yoke
of the minister. She alone prevailed upon the emperor by her
eloquence and beauty to deprive Prince Lobkowitz suddenly of all his
honors and offices and to send him on a common hay-wagon amidst the
contemptuous scoffs and jeers of the populace of Vienna to the
fortress of Raudnitz, forbidding him under pain of death to inquire
about the cause of his punishment.'" [Footnote: Vide Hormayer,
"Lebensbilder aus dem Befreiungskriege," vol. i., p. 321.]
"Well," asked Thugut, when he ceased reading, "what do you think of
"I believe the article contains very idle historical reminiscences,"
said Count Saurau, shrugging his shoulders; "these reminiscences,
according to my opinion, have no bearing whatever upon our own
"That is, you will not admit their bearing upon our own times, my
dear little count; you pretend not to perceive that the whole
article is directed against myself; that the object is to exasperate
the people against me and to encourage my enemies to treat me in the
same manner as Clesel and Lobkowitz were treated. The article
alludes to the archdukes who overthrew the minister so obstinately
opposed to peace, and to the Empress Claudia who profited by her
power over the emperor in order to ruin an all-powerful minister,
her enemy. And you pretend not to see that all this is merely
referred to for the purpose of encouraging Archduke Charles and the
Empress Theresia to act as those have acted? Both are at the head of
the peace party; both want peace with France, and in their short-
sightedness and stupidity, they are enthusiastic admirers of that
French general Bonaparte, whom they call 'the Italian,' unmindful of
the great probability of his designating himself some day by the
sobriquet of 'the Austrian,' unless we oppose him energetically and
set bounds to his thirst after conquest. They want to get rid of me
in the same manner as their predecessors got rid of Cardinal Clesel.
But I hold the helm as yet, and do not mean to relinquish it."
"It would be a terrible misfortune for Austria if your excellency
should do so," said Count Saurau, in his soft, bland voice. "I do
not believe that either the Empress Theresa or the Archduke Charles
will act in a hostile manner toward you."
"And if they should do so, I would not tolerate it," exclaimed
Thugut. "My adversaries, whosoever they may be, had better beware of
my elephant foot not stamping them into the ground. I hate that
boastful, revolutionary France, and to remain at peace with her is
equivalent to drawing toward us the ideas of the revolution and of a
general convulsion. Short-sighted people will not believe it, and
they are my enemies because I am a true friend of Austria. But being
a true friend of Austria, I must combat all those who dare oppose
and impede me, for in my person they oppose and impede Austria.
First of all things, it is necessary for me to get rid of those
newspaper editors and scribblers; they are arrogant, insolent
fellows who imagine they know every thing and are able to criticise
every thing, and who feel called upon to give their opinion about
all things and on all occasions because they know how to wield a
goose-quill. The best thing we could do would be to suppress all
newspapers and periodicals. Shaping the course of politics
ourselves, we do not need any newspapers, which after all are
nothing but ruminating oxen of what we have eaten and digested
already; the people do not understand any thing about it, nor is it
necessary that they should. The people have to work, to obey, to pay
taxes, and, if necessary, to give up their lives for their
sovereign; they need not know any thing further about politics, and
if they do, it is generally detrimental to their obedience. Let us
drive away, then, that noxious crowd of newspaper writers and
pamphleteers who dare enlighten the people by their political trash.
Ah, I will teach Count Erlach that it is a little dangerous to
become a newspaper editor and to serve up entremets of historical
reminiscences to the people of Vienna! I will cram them down his own
throat in such a manner as to deprive him--"
"Count Erlach is the author of the article your excellency read to
me just now?" asked Count Saurau, in great terror.
"There, his name is affixed to it in large letters," replied Thugut,
contemptuously; "he has not even taken pains to conceal it. We have
to return thanks to him for his sincerity, and I hope you will take
the trouble of expressing our gratitude to him."
"What does your excellency want me to do?" asked the police
minister, anxiously. "I believe it would not be prudent for us to
make much ado about it."
"Of course not," said Thugut, laughing. "Do I like to make much ado
about any thing, which would only give rise to scandal and idle
gossip? Just reflect a while, my dear little count. What did we do,
for instance, with the Neapolitan Count Montalban, who became a
thorn in our side, and endeavored to gain power over the emperor?
Did we accuse him of high treason? Did we prefer any charges against
him at all? We merely caused him to disappear, and no one know what
had become of the interesting and handsome count. People spoke for
three or four days about his mysterious disappearance, and then
forgot all about it. [Footnote: Lebensbilder, vol. 1., p. 321.] My
dear sir, there is nothing like oubliettes and secret prisons. I
have often already preached that to you, and you always forget it.
Violence! Who will be such a fool as to betray his little secrets by
acts of open violence? We happen to stand on the great stage of
life, and, like every other stage, there are trap-doors in the
floor, through which those will disappear who have performed their
parts. Let us, therefore, cause Count Erlach, the political writer,
to vanish by means of such a trap-door."
"I implore your excellency to show indulgence for once," said Count
Saurau, urgently. "Count Erlach is an intimate friend of Archduke
Charles, and even the Empress Theresia is attached to him."
"The greater the necessity for me to get rid of him, and to return
my thanks in this manner for the blows they want to deal me by means
of their historical reminiscences. This Count Erlach is a very
disgusting fellow, at all events; he would like to play the
incorruptible Roman and to shine by his virtue. There is nothing
more tedious and intolerable than a virtuous man who cannot be got
at anywhere. Count Erlach has now given us a chance to get hold of
him; let us improve it." "He has very influential connections, very
powerful protectors, your excellency. If he should disappear, they
will raise a terrible outcry about it, and make it their special
business to seek him, and if they should not find him they will say
we had killed him because your excellency was afraid of him."
"I was afraid of him!" exclaimed Thugut, laughing. "As if I ever had
been afraid of any one. Even an earthquake would not be able to
frighten me, and, like Fabricius, I should only look around quite
slowly for the hidden elephant of Pyrrhus. No, I know no fear, but I
want others to feel fear, and for this reason Count Erlach must be
"Very well, let us get rid of him," replied Count Saurau, "but in a
simple manner and before the eyes of the whole public. Believe me
for once, your excellency, I know the ground on which we are
standing; I know it to be undermined and ready to explode and blow
us up. Count Erlach's disappearance would be the burning match that
might bring about the explosion. Let us be cautious, therefore. Let
us remove him beyond the frontier, and threaten him with capital
punishment in case he ever should dare to reenter Austria, but let
us permit him now to leave the country without any injury whatever."
"Well, be it so. I will let you have your own way, my dear anxious
friend. Have Erlach arrested to-day; let two police commissioners
transport him beyond the frontier, and threaten him with capital
punishment, or with my revenge--which will be the same to him--in
case he should return. Let the scribblers and newspapers learn, too,
why Count Erlach was exiled. The prudent men among them will be
warned by his fate, and hereafter hold their tongues; the stupid and
audacious fellows, however, will raise an outcry about the
occurrence, and thus give us a chance to get hold of them likewise.
The matter is settled, then; the aristocratic newspaper writer will
be transported from the country, and that is the end of it.
[Footnote: Count Erlach was really transported beyond the Austrian
frontier by two police commissioners. Only after Thugut's overthrow
in 1801 was he allowed to return to Austria and Vienna.--
Lebensbilder, vol. 1., p. 321.] But I shall seek further
satisfaction for these articles in the newspapers. Oh, the new
Empress Theresia and the archduke shall find out that I am no Clesel
or Lobkowitz to be got rid of by means of an intrigue. I shall try
to obtain in the course of to-day an order from the emperor,
removing the archduke from the command of the army and causing him
to retire into private life. He wants peace and repose in so urgent
a manner; let him sleep and dream, then, while we are up and doing.
I need a resolute and courageous general at the head of the army, a
man who hates the French, and not one who is friendly to them. But
as for the empress--"
"Your excellency," interrupted Count Saurau, with a mysterious air,
"I called upon you to-day for the purpose of speaking to you about
the empress, and of cautioning you against--"
"Cautioning me?" exclaimed Thugut, with proud disdain. "What is the
"You know assuredly that the Empress Theresia has fully recovered
from her confinement, and that she has held levees for a whole week
"As if I had not been the first to obtain an audience and to kiss
her hand!" exclaimed Thugut, shrugging his shoulders. "The empress,"
continued Saurau, "has received the ambassadors also; she even had
two interviews already with the minister of the French Republic,
Thugut suddenly became quite attentive, and fixed his small,
piercing eyes upon the police minister with an expression of intense
"Two interviews?" he asked. "And you know what they conferred about
in these two interviews?"
"I should be a very poor police minister, and my secret agents would
furnish me very unsatisfactory information, if I did not know it."
"Well, let us hear all about it, my dear count. What did the empress
say to Bernadotte?"
"In the first audience General Bernadotte began by reading his
official speech to her majesty, and the empress listened to him with
a gloomy air. But then they entered upon a less ceremonious
conversation, and Bernadotte assured the empress that France
entertained no hostile intentions whatever against Naples, her
native country. He said he had been authorized by the Directory of
the Republic to assure her majesty officially that she need not feel
any apprehensions in relation to Naples, France being animated by
the most friendly feelings toward that kingdom. The face of the
empress lighted up at once, and she replied to the general in very
gracious terms, and gave him permission to renew his visits to her
majesty whenever he wished to communicate anything to her. He had
asked her to grant him this permission."
"I knew the particulars of this first interview, except the passage
referring to this permission," said Thugut, quietly.
"But this permission precisely is of the highest importance, your
excellency, for the empress thereby gives the French minister free
access to her rooms. He is at liberty to see her as often as he
wishes, to communicate any thing to her. It seems the general has to
make many communications to her majesty, for two days after the
first audience, that is yesterday, General Bernadotte again repaired
to the Hofburg in order to see the empress." [Footnote: "Memoires
d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. v., p. 485.]
"And did she admit him?" asked Thugut.
"Yes, she admitted him, your excellency. This time the general did
not confine himself to generalities, but fully unbosomed himself to
her majesty. He confessed to the empress that France was very
anxious to maintain peace with Naples as well as with Austria;
adding, however, that this would be much facilitated by friendly
advances, especially on the part of Austria. Austria, instead of
pursuing such a policy, was actuated by hostile intentions toward
France. When the empress asked for an explanation of these words,
Bernadotte was bold enough to present to her a memorial directed
against the policy of your excellency, and in which the general said
he had taken pains, by order of the Directory, to demonstrate that
the policy of Baron Thugut was entirely incompatible with a good
understanding between Austria and France, and that, without such an
understanding, the fate of Naples could not be but very uncertain."
"What did the empress reply?" asked Thugut, whose mien did not
betray a symptom of excitement or anger.
"Her majesty replied she would read the memorial with the greatest
attention, and keep it a profound secret from every one. She added,
however, she feared lest, even if the memorial should convince
herself of the inexpediency of Baron Thugut's policy, it might be
difficult if not impossible to induce the emperor to take a similar
view of the matter--his majesty reposing implicit confidence in his
prime minister and being perfectly satisfied of your excellency's
fidelity, honesty, and incorruptibility. After this reply,
Bernadotte approached the empress somewhat nearer, and cautiously
and searchingly glanced around the room in order to satisfy himself
that no one but her majesty could overhear his words. Just then--"
"Well, why do you hesitate?" asked Thugut, hastily.
"My tongue refuses to repeat the calumnies which the French minister
has dared to utter." "Compel your tongue to utter them, and let me
hear them," exclaimed Thugut, sarcastically.
"With your excellency's leave, then. Bernadotte then almost bent
down to the ear of the empress and said to her, whisperingly, the
Directory of France were in possession of papers that would
compromise Minister Thugut and furnish irrefutable proofs that
Minister Thugut was by no means a reliable and honest adviser of his
majesty, inasmuch as he was in the pay of foreign powers, England
and Russia particularly, who paid him millions for always fanning
anew the flames of Austria's hostility against France. Bernadotte
added that these papers were on the way and would arrive at Vienna
by the next courier. He asked the empress if she would permit him to
hand these papers to her for placing them into the hands of the
"And the empress?"
"The empress promised it, and granted a third audience to the
minister as soon as he should be in possession of the papers and
apply for an interview with her." [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme
d'Etat," vol. v., p. 890.]
"Are you through?" asked Thugut, with the greatest composure.
"Not yet, your excellency. It remains for me to tell you that the
courier expected by Bemadotte arrived last night at the hotel of the
French embassy, and that the minister himself immediately left his
couch in order to receive the dispatches in person. Early this
morning an extraordinary activity prevailed among the employes of
the embassy, and the first attache as well as the secretary of
legation left the hotel at a very early hour. The former with a
letter from Bernadotte repaired to Laxenburg where the empress, as
is well known to your excellency, has been residing with her court
for the last few days. After the lapse of an hour, he returned, and
brought the general the verbal reply from the empress that her
majesty would return to Vienna in order to attend the festival of
the volunteers, and would then be ready to grant an immediate
audience to the ambassador."
"And whither did the secretary of legation go?"
"First to one of our most fashionable military tailors, [Footnote:
Military tailors are tailors who have the exclusive privilege of
furnishing uniforms, etc., to the officers of the army.] and then to
a dry-goods store. At the tailor's he ordered a banner, which is to
be ready in the course of this evening, and at the dry-goods store
he purchased the material required for this banner--blue, white, and
red. Now, your excellency, I am through with my report."
"I confess, my dear count, that I have listened to you with the most
intense pleasure and satisfaction, and that I cannot refrain from
expressing to you my liveliest admiration for the vigilance and
energy of your police, who do not merely unfathom the past and
present, but also the future. In three days, then, the ambassador of
France will have an interview with the empress?"
"Yes, your excellency, and he will then deliver to her the above
"Provided he has got any such papers, my friend! Papers that might
compromise me! As if there were any such papers! As if I ever had
been so stupid as to intrust secrets to a scrap of paper and to
betray to it what every one must not know. He who wants to keep
secrets--and I understand that exceedingly well--will intrust them
just as little to paper as to human ear. I should burn my own hair
did I believe that it had got wind of the ideas of my head. I would
really like to see these papers which Bernadotte--"
The sudden appearance of the valet de chambre interrupted the
minister. "Your excellency," he said, "the ambassador of the French
Republic, General Bernadotte, would like to see your excellency
immediately concerning a very important and urgent affair."
Thugut exchanged a rapid, smiling glance with the count. "Take the
ambassador to the reception-room and tell him that I shall wait on
him at once."
"Well?" he asked, when the valet had withdrawn. "Do you still
believe that Bernadotte has got papers that would compromise me?
Would he call on me in that case? He doubtless intends telling me
his ridiculous story, too, or he wishes to intimidate me by his
interviews with the empress, so as to prevail on me to accede to the
desires of France and to become more pliable. But he is entirely
mistaken. I am neither afraid of his interviews with the empress,
nor of Bernadotte's papers, and shall immovably pursue my own path.
If it please God, this path will soon lead me to a point where the
battle against those overbearing French may be begun in a very safe
and satisfactory manner. Come, my dear count, accompany me to the
adjoining room. I shall leave the door ajar that leads into the
reception-room, for I want you to be an invisible witness to my
interview with the ambassador. Come!"
THE FESTIVAL OF THE VOLUNTEERS.
He quietly took the count's arm and went with him to the adjoining
room. Indicating to him a chair standing not far from the other
door, he walked rapidly forward and entered the reception-room.
General Bernadotte, quite a young man, approached him with a stiff
and dignified bearing, and there was an expression of bold defiance
and undisguised hostility plainly visible on his youthful and
Thugut, on his side, had called a smile upon his lips, and his eyes
were radiant with affability and mildness.
"I am very glad, general, to see you here at so unexpected an hour,"
he said, politely. "Truly, this is a distinction that will cause all
of our pretty ladies to be jealous of me, and I am afraid, general,
you will still more exasperate the fair sex, who never would grant
me their favor, against myself, for I am now assuredly to blame if
some of our most beautiful ladies now should vainly wait for your
"I am always very punctual in my appointments, your excellency,
whether they be armed rencounters or such rendezvous as your
excellency has mentioned just now, and, therefore, seems to like
especially," said Bernadotte, gravely. "I call upon your excellency,
however, in the name of a lady, too--in the name of the French
"And she is, indeed, a very exalted and noble lady, to whom the
whole world is bowing reverentially," said Thugut, smiling.
"In the name of the French Republic and of the French Directory; I
would like to inquire of your excellency whether or not it is a fact
that a popular festival will be held to-morrow here in Vienna?"
"A popular festival! Ah, my dear general, I should not have thought
that the French Republic would take so lively an interest in the
popular festivals of the Germans! But I must take the liberty of
requesting you, general, to apply with this inquiry to Count Saurau.
For it is the duty of the police minister to watch over these
innocent amusements and harmless festivals of the people."
"The celebration I refer to is neither an innocent amusement nor a
harmless festival," exclaimed Bernadotte, hastily; "on the contrary,
it is a political demonstration."
"A political demonstration?" repeated Thugut, in surprise. "By whom?
And directed against whom?"
"A political demonstration of Austria against the French Republic,"
said the general, gravely. "It is true, your excellency pretends not
to know any thing about this festival of the thirteenth of April,
"Permit me, sir," interrupted Thugut, "is to-morrow the thirteenth
"Yes, your excellency."
"Then I must say that I know something about this festival, and that
I am able to inform you about it. Yes, general, there will be a
popular festival to-morrow."
"May I inquire for what purpose?"
"All, general, that is very simple. It is just a year to-morrow, on
the thirteenth of April, that the whole youth of Vienna, believing
the country to be endangered and the capital threatened by the
enemy, in their noble patriotism voluntarily joined the army and
repaired to the seat of war. [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme
d'Etat," vol. v., p. 499.] These young volunteers desire to
celebrate the anniversary of their enrolment, and the emperor, I
believe, has given them permission to do so."
"I have to beg your excellency to prevail on the emperor to withdraw
"A strange request! and why?"
"Because this festival is a demonstration against France, for those
warlike preparations last year were directed against France, while
Austria has now made peace with our republic. It is easy to
comprehend that France will not like this festival of the
"My dear general," said Thugut, with a sarcastic smile, "does France
believe, then, that Austria liked all those festivals celebrated by
the French Republic during the last ten years? The festivals of the
republican weddings, for instance, or the festival of the Goddess of
Reason, or the anniversaries of bloody executions? Or more recently
the celebrations of victories, by some of which Austria has lost
large tracts of territory? I confess to you that Austria would have
greatly liked to see some of those festivals suppressed, but France
had not asked our advice, and it would have been arrogant and
ridiculous for us to give it without being asked for it, and thus to
meddle with the domestic affairs of your country. Hence we silently
tolerated your festivals, and pray you to grant us the same
"The French Republic will not and must not suffer what is contrary
to her interests," replied Bernadotte, vehemently. "This festival
insults us, and I must therefore pray your excellency to prohibit
it." A slight blush mantled the cold, hard features of Baron Thugut,
but he quickly suppressed his anger, and seemed again quite careless
"You pray for a thing, general, which it is no longer in our power
to grant," he said, calmly. "The emperor has granted permission for
this festival, and how could we refuse the young men of the capital
a satisfaction so eagerly sought by them and, besides, so well
calculated to nourish and promote the love of the people for their
sovereign and for their country? Permit us, like you, to celebrate
our patriotic festivals."
"I must repeat my demand that this festival be prohibited!" said
"Your demand?" asked Thugut, with cutting coldness; "I do not
believe that anybody but the emperor and the government has the
right in Austria to make demands, and I regret that I am unable to
grant your prayer."
"Your excellency then will really permit this festival of the
volunteers to be celebrated to-morrow?"
"Most assuredly. His majesty has given the necessary permission."
"Well, I beg to inform you that, in case the festival takes place
to-morrow, I shall give a festival on my part to-morrow, too."
"Every one in Austria is at liberty to give festivals, provided they
are not contrary to decency, public morals, and good order."
"Your excellency assumes an insulting tone!" exclaimed Bemadotte, in
an excited voice.
"By no means," said Thugut, quietly. "My words would only be
insulting if I wanted to prevent you from giving your festival. I
tell you, however, you are welcome to give it. Let your festival
compete with ours. We shall see who will be victorious in this
"So you really want to permit this festival of the volunteers
although I tell you that France disapproves of it?"
"Disapproves of it? Then France wants to play the lord and master in
those countries, too, which the republican armies have not
conquered? Permit me to tell you that Austria does not want to
belong to those countries. The festival of the volunteers will take
place to-morrow!" "Well, my festival will take place to-morrow,
"Then you doubtless have good reasons, like us, for giving a
"Of course I have. I shall display to-morrow for the first time at
the hotel of the embassy the banner of the French Republic, the tri-
color of France, and that event, I believe, deserves being
celebrated in a becoming manner."
"You want to publicly display the French banner?"
"Yes, sir, it will be displayed on my balcony and proudly float in
the air, as the tri-color of France is accustomed to do everywhere."
"I do not know, however, whether or not the Austrian air will
accustom itself to the tri-color of France, and I pray you kindly to
consider, general, that the enterprise you are going to undertake is
something extraordinary and altogether unheard of. No ambassador of
any foreign power has ever displayed any mark of distinction on his
house, and never has a French minister yet decorated his hotel in
such a manner as you now propose to do. That banner of yours would
therefore be without any precedent in the history of diplomatic
"And so would the festival you are going to give before the eyes of
the French embassy, and notwithstanding my earnest protest."
"Let the French embassy close their eyes if they do not want to see
our Austrian festivals. How often had we to do so in France and
pretend not to see what was highly insulting to us!"
"For the last time, then, you are going to celebrate the festival of
the volunteers to-morrow, notwithstanding the protest of France?"
"I do not think that, France ought to protest against matters that
do not concern her. You prayed me to prohibit the celebration, and I
was unable to grant your prayer; that is all."
"Very well, your excellency, you may celebrate your festival--I
shall celebrate the inauguration of my banner! And now I have the
honor to bid your excellency farewell!"
"I hope the inauguration will be a pleasant affair, general. I take
the liberty once more to tell you that your banner will create a
great sensation. The people of Vienna are stubborn, and I cannot
warrant that they will get accustomed to see another banner but the
one containing the Austrian colors displayed in the streets of
He accompanied the general to the door, and replied to his
ceremonious obeisance by a proud, careless nod. He then hastily
crossed the reception-room and entered again the adjoining
apartment, where the police minister was awaiting him.
"Did you hear it?" asked Thugut, whose features were expressing now
the whole anger and rage he had concealed so long. "I have heard
every thing," said Count Saurau. "The impudence of France knows no
"But we shall set bounds to it!" exclaimed Thugut, with unusual
vehemence. "We will show to this impudent republic that we neither
love nor fear her."
"The festival, then, is really to take place to-morrow?"
"Can you doubt it? It would be incompatible with Austria's honor to
yield now. The youth of Vienna shall have their patriotic festival,
and--let the police to-morrow be somewhat more indulgent than usual.
Youth sometimes needs a little license. Let the young folks enjoy
the utmost liberty all day to-morrow! No supervision to-morrow, no
restraints! Let the young people sing their patriotic hymns. He who
does not want to hear them may close his ears. Pray let us grant to
the good people of Vienna to-morrow a day of entire liberty."
"But if quarrels and riots should ensue?"
"My dear count, you know very well that no quarrels take place if
our police do not interfere; the people love each other and agree
perfectly well if we leave them alone and without any supervision.
They will be to-morrow too full of patriotism not to be joyful and
harmonious. Once more, therefore, no supervision, no restraints! Let
the police belong to the people; let all your employes and agents
put on civilian's clothes and mix with the people, not to watch over
them, but to share and direct their patriotism."
"Ah, to direct it!" exclaimed Count Saurau, with the air of a man
who just commences guessing a riddle. "But suppose this patriotism
in its triumphal march should meet with a stumbling-block or rather
with a banner--?"
"Then let it quietly go ahead; genuine patriotism is strong and
courageous, and will surmount any obstacle standing in its way. The
only question is to inspire it with courage and constantly to fan
its enthusiasm. That will be the only task of the police to-morrow."
"And they will fulfil that task with the utmost cheerfulness. I
"As far as you are concerned," said Thugut, interrupting him, "it
seems to me you will be unfortunately prevented from participating
in the patriotic festival to-morrow. You look exceedingly pale and
exhausted, my dear count, and if I may take the liberty of giving
you a friendly advice, please go to bed and send for your
"You are right, excellency," replied Count Saurau, smiling, "I
really feel sick and exhausted. It will be best for me, therefore,
to keep my bed for a few days, and my well-meaning physician will
doubtless give stringent orders not to admit anybody to me and to
permit no one to see me on business." "As soon as your physician has
given such orders," said Thugut, "send me word and request me to
attend temporarily to the duties of your department as long as you
"In half an hour you shall receive a letter to that effect. I go in
order to send for a physician."
"One word more, my dear count. What has become of that demagogue,
the traitor Wenzel, who headed the riot last year? I then
recommended him to your special care." "And I let him have it, your
excellency. I believe he has entirely lost his fancy for
insurrectionary movements; and politics, I trust, are very
indifferent to him."
"I should regret if it were so," said Thugut, smiling. "I suppose
you have got him here in Vienna?"
"Of course; he occupies a splendid half-dark dungeon in our
"No; I hear he has often asked for it as a favor. But I had given
stringent orders to leave him all alone and without any occupation
whatever. That is the best way to silence and punish such political
criminals and demagogues."
"I would like to see this man Wenzel. We shall, perhaps, set him at
liberty again, "said Thugut. "Will you order him to be brought here
quietly, and without any unnecessary eclat?"
"I shall send him to you, and that shall be my last official
business before being taken sick."
"Be it so, my dear count. Go to bed at once; it is high time."
They smilingly shook hands, and looked at each other long and
"It will be a splendid patriotic festival to-morrow," said Thugut.
"A very patriotic festival, and the inauguration of the banner
particularly will be a glorious affair!" exclaimed Count Saurau.
"What a pity that my sickness should prevent me from attending it!"
He saluted the prime minister once more and withdrew. When the door
had closed behind him the smile disappeared from Thugut's features,
and a gloomy cloud settled on his brow. Folding his arms on his
back, and absorbed in deep thought, he commenced slowly pacing the
room. "The interview with the empress must be prevented at all
events," he muttered, after a long pause, "even if all diplomatic
relations with France have to be broken off for that purpose.
Besides, I must have those papers which he wanted to deliver to the
empress; my repose, my safety depends upon it. Oh, I know very well
what sort of papers they are with which they are threatening me.
They are the letters I had written in cipher to Burton, the English
emissary, whom the French Directory a month ago caused to be
arrested as a spy and demagogue at Paris, and whose papers were
seized at the same time. Those letters, of course, would endanger my
position, for there is a receipt among them for a hundred thousand
guineas paid to me. What a fool I was to write that receipt! I must
get it again, and I am determined to have it!"
A few hours later, an emaciated, pale man was conducted into the
room of Prime Minister Baron Thugut. The minister received him with
a friendly nod, and looked with a smiling countenance at this sick,
downcast, and suffering man, whom he had seen only a year ago so
bold and courageous at the head of the misguided rioters.
"You have greatly changed, Mr. Wenzel," he said, kindly. "The prison
air seems not to agree with you."
Wenzel made no reply, but dropped his head with a profound sigh on
"Ah, ah, Mr. Wenzel," said Thugut, smiling, "it seems your eloquence
is gone, too."
"I have formerly spoken too much; hence I am now so taciturn,"
muttered the pale man.
"Every thing has its time, speaking as well as silence," said
Thugut. "It is true speaking has rendered you very wretched; it has
made you guilty of high treason. Do you know how long you will have
to remain in prison?"
"I believe for fifteen years," said Wenzel, with a shudder.
"Fifteen years! that is half a lifetime. But it does not change such
demagogues and politicians as you, sir. As soon as you are released
you recommence your seditious work, and you try to make a martyr's
crown of your well-merited punishment. Traitors like you are always
incorrigible, and unless they are gagged for life they always cry
out anew and stir up insurrection and disorder."
Wenzel fixed his haggard eyes with a sorrowful expression upon the
"I shall never stir up insurrections again, nor raise my voice in
public as I used to do," he said, gloomily. "I have been cured of it
forever, but it was a most sorrowful cure."
"And it will last a good while yet, Mr. Wenzel."
"Yes, it will last dreadfully long," sighed the wretched man.
"Are you married? Have you got any children?"
"Yes, I have a wife and two little girls--two little angels. Ah, if
I could only see them once more in my life!"
"Wait yet for fourteen years; you can see them then if they be still
alive, and care about having you back."
"I shall not live fourteen years," murmured the pale, downcast man.
"Well, listen to me, Mr. Wenzel. What would you do if I should set
you at liberty?"
"At liberty?" asked the man, almost in terror. "At liberty!" he
shouted then, loudly and jubilantly.
"Yes, sir, at liberty! But you must do something in order to deserve
it. Will you do so?"
"I will do every thing, every thing I am ordered to do, if I am to
be set at liberty, if I am allowed to see my wife and my little
girls again!" shouted Wenzel, trembling with delight.
"Suppose I should order you again to become a popular orator and to
stir up a nice little riot?"
The gleam of joy disappeared again from Wenzel's eyes, and he looked
almost reproachfully at the minister. "You want to mock me," he
"No, my man, I am in good earnest. You shall be a popular orator and
leader all day to-morrow. Are you ready for it?"
"No, I have nothing to do with such matters now. I am a good and
obedient subject, and only ask to be allowed to live peaceably and
Thugut burst into a loud laugh. "Ah, you take me for a tempter, Mr.
Wenzel," he said; "but I am in earnest; and if you will get up for
me a splendid riot to-morrow, I will set you at liberty and no one
shall interfere with you as long as you render yourself worthy of my
indulgence by obedience and an exemplary life. Tell me, therefore,
do you want to be released and serve me?"
Wenzel looked inquiringly and with intense suspense at the cold,
hard features of the minister, and then, when he had satisfied
himself that he had really been in earnest, he rushed forward and
kneeling down before Thugut, he shouted, "I will serve you like a
slave, like a dog! only set me at liberty, only give me back to my
children and my--"
A flood of tears burst from his eyes and choked his voice.
"All right, sir, I believe you," said Thugut, gravely. "Now rise and
listen to what I have to say to you. You will be released tonight.
Then go and see your old friends and tell them you had made a
journey, and the French had arrested you on the road and kept you
imprisoned until you were released in consequence of the measures
the Austrian government had taken in your favor. If you dare to
utter a single word about your imprisonment here, you are lost, for
I hear and learn every thing, and have my spies everywhere, whom I
shall instruct to watch you closely."
"I shall assuredly do whatever you want," exclaimed Wenzel,
"You shall complain to your friends about the harsh and cruel
treatment you had to suffer at the hands of the French. You shall
speak as a good patriot ought to speak."
"Yes, I shall speak like a good patriot," said Wenzel, ardently.
"To-morrow you will be with all your friends on the street in order
to attend the festival of the volunteers, and to look at the
procession. Do you know where the French ambassador lives?"
"Yes, on the Kohlmarkt."
"You shall do your best to draw the people thither. The French
ambassador will display the banner of the French Republic on his
balcony to-morrow. Can the people of Vienna tolerate that?"
"No, the people of Vienna cannot tolerate that!" shouted Wenzel.
"You will repeat that to every one--you will exasperate the people
against the banner and against the ambassador--you and the crowd
will demand loudly and impetuously that the banner be removed."
"But suppose the ambassador should refuse to remove it?"
"Then you will forcibly enter the house and remove the banner
"But if they shut the doors?"
"Then you will break them open, just as you did here a year ago. And
besides, are there no windows--are there no stones, by means of
which you may open the windows so nicely?"
"You give us permission to do all that?"
"I order you to do all that. Now listen to your special commission.
A few of my agents will always accompany you. As soon as you are in
the ambassador's house, repair at once to his excellency's study.
Pick up all the papers you will find there, and bring them to me. As
soon as I see you enter my room with these papers, you will be free
"I shall bring you the papers," exclaimed Wenzel, with a radiant
"But listen. Betray to a living soul but one single word of what I
have said to you, and not only yourself, but your wife and your
children will also be lost! My arm is strong enough to catch all of
you, and my ear is large enough to hear every thing."
"I shall be as silent as the grave," protested Wenzel, eagerly, "I
shall only raise my voice in order to speak to the people about our
beloved and wise Minister Thugut, and about the miserable, over-
bearing French, who dare to hang out publicly the banner of their
bloody republic here in our imperial city, in our magnificent
"That is the right talk, my man! Now go and reflect about every
thing I have told you, and to-morrow morning call on me again; I
shall then give you further instructions. Now go--go to your wife,
and keep the whole matter secret." "Hurrah! long live our noble
prime minister!" shouted Wenzel, jubilantly. "Hurrah, hurrah, I am
free!" And he reeled away like a drunken man.
Thugut looked after him with a smile of profound contempt.
"That is the best way to educate the people," he said. "Truly, if we
could only send every Austrian for one year to the penitentiary, we
would have none but good and obedient subjects!"
The streets of Vienna were densely crowded on the following day.
Every house was beautifully decorated with fresh verdure and
festoons of flowers; business was entirely suspended, and the people
in their holiday dresses were moving through the streets, jubilant,
singing patriotic hymns, and waiting in joyous impatience for the
moment when the procession of the volunteers would leave the city
hall in order to repair to the Burg, where they were to cheer the
emperor. Then they would march through the city, and finally
conclude the festival with a banquet and ball, to be held in a
public hall that had been handsomely decorated for the occasion.
Not only the people, however, but also the educated and aristocratic
classes of Vienna wanted to participate in the patriotic festival.
In the open windows there were seen high-born ladies, beautifully
dressed, and holding splendid bouquets in their hands, which were to
be showered down upon the procession of the volunteers; an endless
number of the most splendid carriages, surrounded by dense crowds of
pedestrians, were slowly moving through the streets, and in these
carriages there were seated the ladies and gentlemen of the
aristocracy and of the wealthiest financial circles; they witnessed
the popular enthusiasm with smiles of satisfaction and delight.
Only the carriages of the ministers were missing in this gorgeous
procession, and it was reported everywhere that two of these
gentlemen, Prime Minister Baron von Thugut and Police Minister Count
Saurau, had been taken sick, and were confined to their beds, while
the other ministers were with the emperor at Laxenburg.
Baron Thugut's prediction had been verified, therefore; the police
minister had really been taken so sick that he had to keep his bed,
and that he had requested Baron Thugut by letter to take charge of
his department for a few days.
But the prime minister himself had suddenly become quite unwell, and
was unable to leave his room! Hence he had not accompanied the other
ministers to Laxenburg in order to dine at the emperor's table. Nay-
-an unheard of occurrence--he had taken his meals all alone in his
study. His footman had received stringent orders to admit no one,
and to reply to every applicant for an interview with him, "His
excellency was confined to his bed by a raging fever, and all
business matters had to be deferred until tomorrow."
The minister's condition, however, was not near as bad as that. It
was true he had the fever, but it was merely the fever of
expectation, impatience, and long suspense. The whole day had
passed, and not a single dissonance had disturbed the pure joy of
the celebration; not a single violent scene had interrupted the
patriotic jubilee. The crowds on the streets and public places
constantly increased in numbers, but peace and hilarity reigned
everywhere, and the people were singing and laughing everywhere.
This was the reason why the minister's blood was so feverish, why he
could find no rest, and why his cold heart for once pulsated so
rapidly. He was pacing his study with long steps, murmuring now and
then some incoherent words, and then uneasily stepping to the window
in order to survey the street cautiously from behind the curtain,
and to observe the surging crowd below.
Just then the large clock on the marble mantelpiece commenced
striking. Thugut hastily turned toward it. "Six o'clock, and nothing
yet," he murmured. "I shall put that fellow Wenzel into a
subterranean dungeon for life, and dismiss every agent of mine, if
He paused and listened. It had seemed to him as though he had heard
a soft rap at the hidden door leading to the secret staircase. Yes,
it was no mistake; somebody was rapping at it, and seemed to be in
"At last!" exclaimed Thugut, drawing a deep breath, and he
approached with hurried steps the large painting, covering the whole
wall and reaching down to the floor. He quickly touched one of the
artificial roses on the gilt frame. The painting turned round, and
the door became visible behind it in the wall.
The rapping was now plainly heard. Thugut pushed the bolt back and
unlocked the door. His confidential secretary, Hubschle, immediately
rushed in with a glowing face and in breathless haste.
"Your excellency," he gasped--"your excellency, the fun has just
commenced! They are now pursuing the deer like a pack of infuriated
blood-hounds. Oh, oh! they will chase him thoroughly, I should
Thugut cast a glance of gloomy indignation on the versatile little
man with the bloated face. "You have been drinking again, Hubschle,"
he said; "and I have ordered you to remain sober to-day!"
"Your excellency, I am quite sober," protested Hubschle. "I assure
you I have not drunk any more than what was required by my thirst."
"Ah, yes; your thirst always requires large quantities," exclaimed
Thugut, laughing. "But speak now rapidly, briefly, and plainly. No
circumlocution, no tirades! Tell me the naked truth. What fun has
"The inauguration of the banner, your excellency."
"Then Bernadotte has hung out his banner, after all?"
"Yes, he has done so. We were just going down the street--quite a
jolly crowd it was, by the by. Master Wenzel, a splendid fellow, had
just loudly intoned the hymn of 'God save the Emperor Francis,' and
all the thousands and thousands of voices were joining the choir, as
if they intended to serenade the French ambassador, when, suddenly,
a balcony door opened, and General Bernadotte, in full uniform came
out. He was attended by his whole suite; and several footmen brought
out an immense banner, which they attached to the balcony. We had
paused right in the middle of our beautiful hymn, and the people
were looking up to the balcony, from which the gentlemen had
disappeared again, with glances full of surprise and curiosity. But
the banner remained there! Suddenly a violent gust touched the
banner, which, up to this time, had loosely hung down, and unfolded
it entirely. Now we saw the French tri-color proudly floating over
our German heads, and on it we read, in large letters of gold--
Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!" [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme
d'Etat," vol. V. p. 494.]
"What impudence!" muttered Thugut.
"You are right, that was the word," exclaimed Hubschle.
"'What impudence!' roared Master Wenzel; and the whole crowd
immediately repeated, 'What impudence! Down with the foreign banner!
We are not so stupid as the people of Milan, Venice, and Rome; we do
not jubilantly hail the French color; on the contrary, this banner
makes us angry. Down with it! It is an insult offered to the
emperor, that a foreign flag with such an abominable inscription is
floating here. Down with the banner!'"
"Very good, very good, indeed," said Thugut, smiling. "This man
Wenzel is really a practical fellow. Go on, sir."
"The crowd constantly assumed larger proportions, and the shouts of
'Down with the banner!' became every moment more impetuous and
threatening. Suddenly a small detachment of soldiers emerged from
the adjoining street. The officer in command kindly urged the people
to disperse. But it was in vain; the tumult was constantly on the
increase. The crowd commenced tearing up the pavement and throwing
stones at the windows and at the banner."
"And the soldiers?"
"They quietly stood aside. But--somebody is rapping at the opposite
door! Shall I open it, your excellency?"
"One moment! I first want to turn back the painting. So! Now open
the door, Hubschle!"
The private secretary hastened with tottering steps to the door and
unlocked it. Thugut's second private secretary entered. He held a
sealed letter in his band.
"Well, Heinle, what's the matter?" asked Thugut, quietly.
"Your excellency, the French ambassador, General Bernadotte, has
sent this letter to your excellency."
"And what did you reply to the messenger?"
"That your excellency had a raging fever; that the doctor had
forbidden us to disturb you, but that I would deliver it to the
minister as soon as he felt a little better."
"That was right. Now go back to your post and guard the door well in
order that no one may penetrate into my room. And you, Hubschle,
hasten back to the Kohlmarkt and see what is going on there, and
what is occurring at the French embassy. But do not drink any more
liquor! As soon as this affair is over, I shall give you three days'
leave of absence, when you may drink as much as you please. Go, now,
and return soon to tell me all about it."
"And now," said Thugut, when he was alone, "I will see what the
French ambassador has written to me."
He opened the letter, and, as if the mere perusal with the eyes were
not sufficient for him, he read in a half-loud voice as follows:
"The ambassador of the French Republic informs Baron Thugut that at
the moment he is penning these lines, a fanatical crowd has been so
impudent as to commit a riot in front of his dwelling. The motives
that have produced this violent scene cannot be doubtful, inasmuch
as several stones already were thrown at the windows of the house
occupied by the ambassador. Profoundly offended at so much
impudence, he requests Baron Thugut immediately to order an
investigation, so that the instigators of the riot may be punished,
and that their punishment may teach the others a much-needed lesson.
The ambassador of the French Republic has no doubt that his
reclamations will meet with the attention which they ought to
excite, and that the police, moreover, will be vigilant enough to
prevent similar scenes, which could not be renewed without producing
the most serious consequences, the ambassador being firmly
determined to repel with the utmost energy even the slightest
insults, and accordingly much more so, such scandalous attacks.
Baron Thugut is further informed that he has reason to complain of
the conduct of several agents of the police. Some of them were
requested to disperse the rioters, but, instead of fulfilling the
ambassador's orders, they remained cold and idle spectators of the
revolting scene." [Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. v.,
"What overbearing and insulting language this fellow dares to use!"
exclaimed Thugut, when he had finished the letter. "One might almost
believe he was our lord and master here, and--ah, somebody raps
again at the door! Perhaps Hubschle is back already."
He quickly touched the frame of the painting again, and the door
opened. It was really Hubschle, who entered as hastily as before.
"Your excellency, I have just reascended the staircase as rapidly as
though I were a cat," he gasped. "At the street door I learned some
fresh news from one of our men, and I returned at once to tell you
all about it."
"Quick, you idle gossip, no unnecessary preface!"
"Your excellency, things are assuming formidable proportions. The
riot is constantly on the increase, and grows every minute more
threatening. Count Dietrichstein, and Count Fersen, the director of
the police, have repaired to General Bernadotte and implored him to
remove the banner."
"The soft-hearted fools!" muttered Thugut.
"But their prayers were fruitless. They preferred them repeatedly,
and always were refused. They even went so far as to assure the
ambassador, in case he should yield to their request and give them
time to calm the people and induce them to leave the place, that the
Austrian government would assuredly give him whatever satisfaction
he should demand. But General Bernadotte persisted in his refusal--
and replied peremptorily, 'No, the banner remains!'"
"Proceed, proceed!" exclaimed Thugut, impatiently.
"That is all I know, but I shall hasten to collect further news, and
then return to your excellency."
Hubschle disappeared through the secret door, and Thugut replaced
the painting before it. "The banner remains!" he exclaimed, laughing
scornfully. "We will see how long it will remain! Ah, Heinle is
rapping again at the other door. What is it, Heinle?"
"Another dispatch from the French ambassador," said Heinle, merely
pushing his arm with the letter through the door.
"And you have made the same reply?"
"The same reply."
"Good! Return to your post."
The arm disappeared again. Thugut opened the second dispatch, and
read as before in a half-loud voice: "The ambassador of the French
Republic informs Baron Thugut that the fury of the mob is constantly
on the increase; already all the window-panes of the dwelling have
been shattered by the stones the rioters are incessantly throwing at
them; he informs you that the crowd at the present moment numbers no
less than three or four thousand men, and that the soldiers whose
assistance was invoked, so far from protecting the house of the
French embassy, remain impassive spectators of the doings and fury
of the rabble, their inactivity encouraging the latter instead of
deterring them. The ambassador cannot but believe that this
scandalous scene is not merely tolerated, but fostered by the
authorities, for nothing whatever is done to put a stop to it. He
sees with as much regret as pain that the dignity of the French
people is being violated by the insults heaped on the ambassador,
who vainly implored the populace to disperse and go home. At the
moment the ambassador is writing these lines, the rage of the crowd
is strained to such a pitch that the doors have been broken open by
means of stones, while the soldiers were quietly looking on. The
furious rabble tore the French colors from the balcony with hooks
and long poles. The ambassador, who cannot remain any longer in a
country where the most sacred laws are disregarded and solemn
treaties trampled under foot, therefore asks Baron Thugut to send
him his passports in order that he may repair to France with all the
attaches of the embassy, unless Baron Thugut should announce at once
that the Austrian government has taken no part whatever in the
insults heaped upon the French Republic; that it disavows them, on
the contrary, in the most formal manner, and that it orders the
ringleaders and their accomplices to be arrested and punished in the
most summary manner. On this condition alone, and if the Austrian
government agrees to restore the French banner and to cause it to be
displayed on the balcony of the French embassy by a staff-officer,
the ambassador consents to remain in Vienna. Let Baron Thugut
remember that these are precious moments, and that he owes the
ambassador an immediate and categorical reply to his inquiries."
[Footnote: "Memoires d'un Homme d'Etat," vol. v., p. 501.]
"Well, I believe the good people of Vienna will take it upon
themselves to make a categorical reply to General Bernadotte, and to
silence the overbearing babbler, no matter how it is done,"
exclaimed Thugut, laughing scornfully. "I am really anxious to know
how this affair is going to end, and how my brave rioters will
chastise the ambassador for his insolence. What, another rap
already? Why, you are a genuine postillon d' amour! Do you bring me
"A third dispatch from General Bernadotte," exclaimed Heinle,
outside, pushing his arm with the dispatch again through the door.
Thugut took it and rapidly opened it. "It seems matters are growing